When I first jumped headfirst into my role as a parent nearly ten years ago, one of the most difficult transitions for me was becoming a confident parent.
Consider this scenario…
You are a parent, one half of a team that is in charge of children. Your task? Raise them right, feed them, clothe them and set them up for success. And along the way, try not to let them have horrible habits or kill each other in the process. A pretty daunting task if you really think about it. Now, take that same scenario but instead of starting the first day of parenting class along with your better half, you are years, literally years behind when it comes to parenting that child or children.
That is the scenario most new step-parents face when they say “I Do”, and it can deliver some difficult challenges. One thing that has plagued me for years has been confidence. Because my wife was present for that parenting class from day one and has loads more experience than I did I would defer to her for advice, and overall parenting in the early years. There is nothing wrong with this, but after awhile, it’s like riding with training wheels when you should be hitting the pavement without the extra assistance.
Then suddenly, she isn’t home and you have to make a decision and you just kinda take a shot in the dark. Or you have to parent in front of her and can’t help but worry the entire time that you aren’t doing it the way she would do it and therefore are probably wrong.
And it’s even worse when you get your gusto up and decide to hand out that discipline or make a difficult yes or no decision and you get it dead wrong. And your wife lets you know about it.
Confidence plummeting. And what does that lead to?
Without confidence, how well would you do as a public speaker?
If your confidence is low, how well do you think you will perform as an athlete?
When your confidence is shaken, how effective are you at your job?
And thus starts a potentially vicious cycle. If you can’t develop your stride as a parent and can’t learn how to be your own strong and effective part of the equation, what good are you? I know this has led to many step-parents being one extreme of the spectrum. They are either completely absent when it comes to parenting, or try way too hard and are overbearing and just horrible.
So what have I done to gain confidence and try not to fall into the extremes of step-parenting? Well, it’s been a real process, but I think my confidence has grown over time with the help of some important things. Here are a few that come to mind.
– Parent by yourself as often as possible: Let your wife have a night out with you taking care of the kids or for a real test, have the kids to yourself for a full weekend. This can be baptism under fire.
– Communication: Ask your better half to tell you what you are doing wrong and actually learn from it. THIS IS INCREDIBLY TOUGH and I still, to this day, am not good at it. But these discussions always stick with me, even when I disagree and argue my side of the parenting tug of war.
– Learn from your mistakes: Don’t be afraid to be wrong and make bad parenting decisions, everyone does it, step-parent or not.
What has helped you gain confidence as a step-parent?